Heeding the Call
So, late last week, it was confirmed that Michael Been (60) had passed away. It turns out that Been is the father of one of the members of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. This was news to me, even though I have listened to BRMC for the past six or so years. I know of Been through my love of music. He was the frontman for that almost made it big band the Call.
The Call was brought to my attention by vampires. More specifically, Joel Schumacher’s classic teen vampire flick the Lost Boys. I bought the soundtrack right away after seeing the movie. I loved Echo and the Bunnymen’s pretty straight-forward take on people are strange, but I was drawn to the song I Still Believe, performed by Tim Capello. There is a whole seen set around the song being performed on a stage as Jason Patrick pursues Jamie Gertz.
Capello’s version was pretty much a verbatim cover. I was pulled to lyrics like:
I been in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in
This is our crime
This is our sin
But i still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, i still believe
For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, i still believe
So I tracked down their CD Reconciled. Reconciled has been referred to since as one of the greatest Gospel records ever made. No small wonder, as the songs seem to range from outright praise (Everywhere I Go) to confessionals (Blood Red[America]-also a politically charged song).
I quickly started tracking down other albums. One of the wonderful things about Been’s songwriting was his ability to touch on the tension between idealism and disappointment, between hope and despair in any situation. He captured the optimism, heartache and longing of unrequited romance in I Don’t Wanna (From the phenomenal Into the Woods). And yet, Been could be truly exuberant and hopeful with songs like Let the Day Begin.
The Call always seemed on the verge of “making it big”… Peter Gabriel was a fan in his post-Genesis heyday. Scorsese cast him as the apostle John in the Last Temptation of Christ. Songs would appear on the radio and in movies… but they never… quite… made it to the U2 side of the “spiritual rock band” divide (others, such as the Alarm had the same problem). I’ve even heard the Call described as having the passion and depth of U2, but being more accessible. I think this is an apt observation. It’s unfortunate to me that the Call never quite cracked through, but it does not diminish what the band or Been himself meant to me growing up.
His songs impacted me, filled me with joy and hope. Michael Been will be missed.
(Here is a loose selection of songs to check out…)
“I’m flat on my back out at sea
hoping these waves don’t cover me
I’m turned and tossed upon the waves
When the darkness comes I feel the grave.”
I was stunned when my local radio station referred to him as “the recently departed Michael Been” a few days ago. That was a great band.
Yeah…they were one of those bands you could listen to any of their CDs and find gems other than the singles. I know Michael wasn’t likely to be releasing more albums with the Call…but I will miss him and my heart goes out to his family.